Introduction: Bipolar Lamp


My name is Andrew James Sapala and I am a second-year MFA Fine Art student at Parsons, focusing specifically on robotic sculpture installation. This piece was made for my Evil Robots midterm taught by Randy Sarafan.


The concept for my lamp was based on the natural up and down emotions of bipolar disorder. I wanted to create a lamp that saw itself as being beautiful and shit at differing intervals. The lamp itself has multiple micro servos in order to create a fluid motion for as much personality as possible. At times the lamp sees the good qualities within itself and at times the negative.

Before we begin I would like to include a list of materials required to build this lamp.

Materials Breakdown:


Power cables (long ones are important)


Reflective Mylar

Red LED and Green LED


122 Resistors (2)

Three micro servos

Soldering iron + lead-free solder

Power source (computer or 4 AA battery pack)

Hot Glue

White acrylic paint + Red acrylic paint

Step 1: Early Prototype

Early experiments:

My current practice involves using cardboard as a means to quickly prototype my sculptures. Cardboard is a great material for it's versatility and low cost. Before I started to create my bipolar robotic lamp, I took parts from my MIME INDUSTRIES robotic chip board that has pre-installed code within to get an idea of how the lamp could move back and forth. Here is a link to their terrific website: Mime Industries

I set up two panels facing one another on the left and right side of the swinging lamp so when the bottom micro servo reaches 0 degrees it faces the You Are Beautiful panel and when it pans to the opposite side at 180 degrees it faces the You Are Shit panel.

I then needed to code the Arduino to understand that at these particular angles a Green and Red LED light would switch on at those intervals, while facing the corresponding panel. Green for beautiful, Red for shit.

This being an early experiment I had originally wanted to set the lights up with conductive tape and switches held on the mid section of the lamp, however, through troubleshooting I found that this prohibits the lamps movement back and forth.

Step 2: Building the Next Version...

This new version of the lamp was produced with a slightly bulkier cardboard neck, trunk and base. The micro servos have low torque so I needed to make sure that the craning as well as the back and forth motion of the lamp could hold itself together without too much weight on the micro servos. The whole lamp uses three differing servos for three different actions. The base swings the lamp back and forth from 0 to 180 degrees. The second mid section servo moves the trunk from 30 to 75 degrees and the top neck servo moves from 90 to 75 degrees.

All servos thread into the breadboard and Arduino for power, ground, and assigned code. I unfortunately did not have power cords that could extend from the breadboard to the servos. So I daisy chained an assortment of smaller ones together with solder to get the required length. The micro servos were set at 90 degrees, hot glued into position, and then using an attachment -hot glued again to the attached cardboard section for movement. This is a very delicate process and at times was extremely frustrating.

For the lights, resistors were used on the breadboard to channel the correct amount of power to the LED lights. Because I used a simple Red and Green LED, two common 22 om resistors were used. I attached the USB power cord to my computer for power and for programming the Arduino. A 4 pack AA battery pack works well as an alternative to a computer power source.

Step 3: Bipolar Emotions

I am very new to building robotic sculptures and I am trying to write and learn about all kinds of mechanized constructs in order to get somewhere new with my art practice. The motion of the lamp needed to be subtle and powerful at the same time, and with the reflective mylar with the statements painted on the surface, the lamp has a chance to see itself and reflect (literally) on how it may feel at that moment. The back and forth motion of the lamp gives the piece a very emotional edge, in unison with the reflective panels.

Step 4: Video of Project in Motion

Here is a video of the Bipolar lamp in motion on the ground of my studio. I am still learning and I am still developing this project and will continue to upload more material on it's build.

Kind regards,

Andrew James Sapala

Step 5: